Monterotondo and Mentana

This itinerary crosses one of the areas around Rome which has been inhabited longest, and is famous both as a holiday centre and for its wine. The great beauty of these hills has been partly ruined by modern building, but it still preserves unexpected Baroque treasures and beautiful views overlooking valleys.
The trip starts at the station of Monterotondo Scalo which can be reached, from Rome, via the Fara Sabina-Orte line. Monterotondo is a small railway and industrial centre, linked to the production of bricks. You can reach the town by crossing the secondary exit on the left of the tracks; once you are on the road, turn right and then left until you reach Via Salaria. Now follow the road signs for Monterotondo, 5 km along Via Nomentana. This town had already been mentioned in 1074, when it was in the fiefdom of the Orsini, and then Barberini, families. Since 1626 the latter enlarged it and commissioned many interesting monuments. At the end of the uphill road which leads to Piazza 8 Martiri, go under an 18th century gate and enter the town. By following Via XXV Aprile you will find the S. Maria delle Grazie church, with the fine renaissance tomb of Girolamo Orsini. Return to the main gate and follow the road, uphill, to the Piazza dei Leoni, so called because of the fountain supported by 4 lions, and then cross Via Cavour until you reach the Cathedral, built in 1639 by Cardinal Carlo Barberini, in accordance with Bernini-like taste.
From the 18th century gate, reach the top of the town where the Palazzo Municipale (town hall) or Ducale is, leave your bicycles and walk up to the wide entrance with a courtyard. The imposing castle was built by the Orsini family between the 14th and 15th centuries and preserves only one of its 4 original towers, which were often used as prisons for popes. You can request a visit to the floors above which are accessible via the royal stairway; the rooms are still decorated with mythological frescoes and views by Siciolante da Sermoneta and Paul Brill.
Once you are back on Via Nomentana, follow the road, minding the traffic, for about 5 km; you will cross vineyards and olive groves until you reach Mentana, a medieval town which is still in good condition. This used to be the centre for the Sabine people, and Nomentum gave the name to the road which bears its name today and was built at about 1.5 km from the current Mentana. Its remains can be visited by crossing the town until you reach the Casali district, where square bricks walls can be seen. Once you return to Mentana, you will notice that the town unfolds along via Nomentana which however, within the town, takes the name of Via III Novembre. Follow the road until you reach the modern area and turn left onto Via Roma, where you can go into a small garden with cypresses where the Mausoleum and the Garibaldi Museum can be seen, a memorial to the 1867 clashes between French and Garibaldian soldiers. Once you get back onto Via III Novembre, close by, leave your bicycles and enter, on the right, the old part of the town, built on a spur of rock in a defensive position. Small roads pass under the old town gate: along these are scattered mediaeval towers, remains of sarcophagi, and Roman portraits incorporated into the facades of houses. Once you reach Piazza S. Nicola and its Romanesque parish church you can see the imposing Palazzo Baronale or Borghese, now a municipal building, standing in all its glory. It was once a castle of the Orsini family which was partially destroyed and rebuilt in the form of a tall, massive building embellished by balconies and rusticated walls.
Inside, you can visit the Antiquarium with the archaeological finds of the ancient Nomentum and, more importantly, the Museo delle Maschere Teatrali e dei Burattini (museum of theatrical masks and puppets). Once you have returned to the main courtyard, go left under an arch and follow Via del Castello which borders the mighty tower built to protect the palace and its town. Back on Via III Novembre, follow the whole itinerary in reverse until you reach Monterotondo Scalo.

By train: Outward journey: Take the FM1; from Rome Termini to Fara Sabina and Orte (get off at: Monterotondo Scalo – Mentana)
Return: Take the FM1, from Monterotondo Scalo take the Rome-Fiumicino line.
By bicycle: Length: about 20 km.
Difficulty: easy

For further information, contact:
Museo delle Maschere Teatrali e dei Burattini: + 39 06 9093885

Area
Via Nomentana e Via Salaria